It’s been a busy April, to say the least. Indeed just today it hit me that May starts tomorrow but I have yet to post about a Pac-Man clone this month. Does this mean that I’ve run out? Oh, dear reader, hardly. I’ve just been occupied, what with life, work, AtariAge’s 2600 High Score Club, and a trip to Underground Retrocade (without even touching a Pac-Man game….wow!) Oh, and remember how I said I wasn’t sure how long the Google Maps April Fool’s Day Pac-Man game would be up? Yeah, it’s gone…And at the time of this writing, I happen to be featured on the “Player Focus” on aurcade.com (certainly because of my earth-shattering Kangaroo high score of almost five digits). But let’s get down to business, first things first…
Pie Factory Podcast
Did you know that I am the cohost of a new video game podcast? Yeppers, my buddy Jimmy G and I discuss two arcade games on every show, and we reveal a theme. So far we have published our intro episode — “Episode zero,” if you will — and we just recorded episode 1, in which we discuss Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong 3. You can listen to us through iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/pie-factory-podcast/id988509945.
Alien for Atari 2600 / Video Computer System
Speaking of the AtariAge 2600 High Score Club, I participate regularly, partly because it gives me an opportunity to play games I’ve never touched before. Recently the theme was games based on scifi movies: Star Wars, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (which is by absolutely no means a bad game!), and Alien. In my case, Alien was new to me.
Now, I’ve never seen the movie, but I surmised that the game, although allegedly based on the movie, resembles probably not much of the film. According to some reviews I read of the game, I was right. If you’re looking for a game that will resemble its motion picture counterpart, you’ll be disappointed; however, if you’re a Pac-Man fan who doesn’t like the commercially successful critical flop that we all have in our Atari collections, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.
Because I’m not familiar at all with the movie, I was, well…shocked…when I started the game and found that it looks and plays a lot like Pac-Man. I just assumed it was Pac-Man, so that was my strategy. Why was I shocked? Well, because I took the time to read the manual before I even turned the game on. According to the manual, you, the “Human,” are inside a spaceship and have to crush all of the “Alien Eggs” that are scattered throughout the maze of hallways. Each maze has three “pulsars.” Pick one up and you score 100 points, the aliens (three per screen) turn blue, and while the aliens are blue you can destroy them by running over them. You score 500 points for destroying an alien, then 1,000 if you destroy another with the same pulsar, and 2,000 for the third. Periodically a prize appears in the middle of the maze: a rocket for 500 points, “Saturn” for 1,000 points, a starship for 2,000 points, or a “Surprise” worth between 2,000 and 5,000 points.
Of course this isn’t Pac-Man — not only are there not four enemies and four energizers, but also is a flamethrower available for your Human to use in defense. The flamethrower only lasts for a certain amount of time per life. Tell ya what, though: it’s pretty useless. Seldom have I been able to use it to my advantage; my experience is that the aliens go right through the flame. Also, in Pac-Man, you get a bonus life after reaching a certain score; well, certainly, this isn’t Pac-Man because you’re awarded an extra Human after clearing the second maze!
The REAL Bloody Human Freeway
The beauty of Alien is that not only does it seem to resemble Pac-Man, but there’s also a screen that I just can’t help but think is a re-purposed version of Activision’s Freeway — especially because your character is called “the Human,” and the original title of Freeway was Bloody Human Freeway. When you clear a maze, you get a “bonus round.” Your goal in the bonus round: move the
chicken Human all the way to the top of the screen while avoiding aliens that go back and forth across the screen. Oh, yes…and your Human can only move up and down. If your Human gets hit by a car an alien, that’s the end of the bonus round (and because it’s a bonus round, it doesn’t cost you a life), and you move on to the next maze.
If you play Alien expecting a video game version of the popular movie, you’ll be disappointed. But if you approach it for what it…is trying to deny it is — a Pac-Man clone — you’ll find it to be very enjoyable, perhaps even closer to the actual Pac-Man than what Atari released for the 2600 in 1981. I can see this getting some plays on my 7800 or my Vader model in the future.
Now, I’m getting hungry; I’m going to go to McDowell’s and have a Bic Mic.